Quickly pass donations to disaster victims
Huge amounts of money have been donated at home and abroad to survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake.
The Japanese Red Cross Society and the Central Community Chest for Japan have collected about 170 billion yen combined, and municipal governments in disaster-stricken areas have directly received donations of more than 20 billion yen.
In the about 40 days since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the money donated has reached about the same amount as that given after the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake. The nuclear power plant crisis that has compounded the quake disaster has apparently stirred up feelings of sympathy in many people in Japan and overseas and convinced them to open their wallets.
This money, however, has yet to reach disaster victims.
Thousands of people are still living in temporary shelters without any belongings, having lost everything in the tsunami. They urgently need money just to get by. We hope the donated cash will reach them as soon as possible.
On April 8, the secretariat of the committee in charge of distributing donations, which has been established in the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, decided on distribution details of the first batch of donations. Families will receive 350,000 yen for each person who was killed in the disaster or remains missing, and owners of houses that were destroyed will receive 350,000 yen and people whose homes have been severely damaged will get 180,000 yen.
Distribution too slow
The donations will be distributed based of these criteria. Prefectural governments will add some money of their own before handing the cash to disaster victims through city, town and village governments.
The reality, however, is that some disaster-struck municipalities have only just started offering application procedures for receiving donations.
After the Great Hanshin Earthquake, the amount of the first distribution of donations was decided 12 days after the disaster, with people whose homes were destroyed receiving 100,000 yen in the initial payouts. Compared with this, decisions on donation distribution criteria and the payment process to victims of last month's quake and tsunami have been pointedly slow. Many people who generously made donations also probably feel frustrated by this situation.
The immense devastation wrought by the disaster has made it all but impossible for many disaster-hit municipalities to accurately assess the damage to individual households. Administrative functions of some city, town and village governments have been so badly eroded that they are unable to address the task of distributing donations.
To alleviate this situation, the central government, prefectural governments outside the disaster zone and other entities should send personnel to lend a hand with clerical work needed to pass donations to disaster survivors.
Make payments uniform
We think a uniform provisional payment should be given to people with damaged homes, rather than wasting time worrying over whether a house should be categorized as "destroyed" or "partially damaged."
A closer examination of the degree of damage can wait until the second round of donation distributions.
Cash will be very helpful to disaster victims. These initial payments should be made flexibly and swiftly.
Given the staggering death toll and number of people still unaccounted for, as well as the scale of property damage, much more money will need to be collected.
First of all, the initial batch of donations must be distributed without a hitch to people who desperately need it. This will be a springboard for the next round of support and financial aid.
It also will be a message of acknowledgement from Japan to people around the world who have sent their goodwill to disaster victims.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 23, 2011)